Monday, December 22, 2008

Attention Scientists: CIRM Proposes Triage on Research Plans

The California stem cell agency is proposing a form of scientific triage on research proposals, weeding them out even before they get into the peer review process.

Up for consideration at tomorrow afternoon's CIRM board meeting, the pilot project could have major implications for stem cell researchers in California, allowing them to bypass screening committees at their institutions. The proposal also would create another layer in the closed-door CIRM grant approval process, vest major, new authority with the CIRM staff and push the CIRM board even further away from the de facto decisions on grant applications.

The plan has yet to be published by CIRM on its web site. However, Don Gibbons, CIRM's chief communications officer, made an electronic copy of the Power Point presentation available to the California Stem Cell Report. If you would like a copy, please email the California Stem Cell Report ( or CIRM (

The proposal would involve a "pre-application review" of proposals that would involve CIRM staff and two members of the grants review group. It is patterned after "comparable procedures from from the Gates Foundation/MJFF/NIH/Genome Canada."

Some members of the CIRM board of directors balked at the proposal earlier this month. CIRM staff is bringing it up again tomorrow with changes aimed at addressing directors' concerns.

One key reason behind the proposal is to help ease the workload of the scientists who come from out-of-state to review applications. Sometimes the number of applications have run into the hundreds, creating time-consuming situations where scientists are reluctant to devote their time.

It is also designed to ferret out applications that are nixed by institutions prior to coming to CIRM. Marie Csete, CIRM's chief scientific officer, said the agency has received complaints that the best science is not always getting to CIRM.

She told directors earlier this month that CIRM may "not be seeing the full range of science from young scientists."

The public can participate in the meeting from locations in San Francisco (3), Berkeley, Elk Grove, Healdsburg, Los Angeles (3), Koloa, Hi., Beverly Hills, Irvine (2), La Jolla (2), Stanford, Cornelius, NC, Sacramento, Philadelphia and Chicago. The out-of-state locations are presumably where some CIRM directors will be tomorrow afternoon but they are still legally public as far as CIRM meetings go. The specific addresses can be found on the meeting agenda.

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